New Haven residents gathered on Sunday to participate in the Black History Month Unity March & Motorcade, a celebration of Black History Month that combined commemoration and political expression.
The event, organized by local organizations including New Haven Rising, Connecticut People’s World Committee and Ice the Beef, began with a march from the New Haven People’s Center to the Troup School. Upon arrival, the event continued with community performances, student awards and a panel on civil rights in the Troup School Auditorium. Now in its 46th iteration, the event featured a double theme — Dump Trump and voters rights — relevant during an election year. Organizers selected “Dump Trump” for the march, a bold take on what organizers and many participants believe to be the fundamental challenge to the success of the black community today, the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. The later events were formatted around the theme of voter’s rights.
“We’re marching against Trump because he is the biggest impediment to achieving equality and unity,” event organizer Joelle Fishman of the People’s World Committee, told the News in an interview.
Union member Barbara Montalvo, who grew up in New Haven and came to the march with her mother, told the News she came out because she is concerned with how another Trump term could mean punishment for New Haven because of its culture as a sanctuary city as it relates to treatment of undocumented immigrants.
Montalvo was one of about 60 participants including that gathered in the early afternoon at the People’s Center, taking turns to decorate red and white “Dump Trump” signs with slogans calling for higher taxes on the wealthy and an end to discrimination, among others. Before heading out, many stopped to sign similarly named commitment cards, asking attendants to make a pledge to contribute to election efforts against the current President.
When it came time to march, Montalvo chose a pre-decorated sign that read “We won’t go back!” She told the News she picked the slogan because she wanted to emphasize the importance of standing against “regressing on a variety of issues like systematic racism and sexism.”
Another participant, Southern Connecticut State University Professor Stephen Monroe Tomczak, scribbled the slogan “Tax the Rich” on his sign in bold green marker.
“This pretty much describes my political views in three words,” he told the News. Tomczak said that he believes defeating Trump is imperative in order to increase taxes on the wealthy and improve the unjust conditions many Americans suffer due to the growing expenses for services like healthcare.
In an unusual move for local political marches, participants skipped downtown New Haven. Instead, when they approached the intersection of Chapel and Crown, moving northwards from their starting point at the People’s Center, participants went west, heading for the Dwight neighborhood’s Troup School. Organizers Joelle Fishman and Mary Thigpen from the World People’s Committee said the March’s objective was not to mobilize on City Hall but to inspire action within the local black community on the issues of importance.
Marchers made their way down Chapel into the Dwight neighborhood among some passing cars. Along the way, they chanted their opposition to Trump.
Alongside this, others involved added their concerns to the chants. Student protestors from community-group Ice the Beef led the demonstration carrying a banner commemorating their former program participant and friend Tyriek Keyes, who passed away in 2017 from a bullet from a passing car in the Newhallville neighborhood. Among anti-Donald Trump chants, they included their own calls, referencing voter’s rights and justice for crimes like those that left Keyes dead.
One student who helped lead the chants, 19-year-old Elaine Lester, told the News that Ice the Beef students came out to the protest as a way to ensure that the story of Keyes is not forgotten with time.
At Troup the number of participants neared 100 as others joined marchers for a program that highlighted the importance of voter’s rights. Event organizers also honored New Haven resident Lula White, who participated in the Freedom Rides that sought to register voters and desegregate public spaces throughout the Jim Crow South in the 1960s. White died in December.
Black History Month spans the month of February each year.
Emiliano Tahui Gómez | email@example.com